Dunning-Kruger in IT Infrastructure

Sitting in a taxi driving to CLEUR 2018 in Barcelona we couldn’t resist but complain about the stuff we’re seeing in real-life networks, resulting in someone exclaiming something along the lines of “I can’t understand how someone could do so many stupid things”

Welcome to the wonderful world of Dunning-Kruger Effect.

I would strongly encourage you to read the original paper (it’s one of the few hilariously amusing academic papers I read in my life). Cliff notes straight from the abstract:

People tend to hold overly favorable views of their abilities in many social and intellectual domains.

Or from a quote of an earlier work (in the same article):

It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the offense.

To paraphrase: the less you know, the better you think you are, resulting in everyone thinking they’re above average. The same effect also explains why everyone thinks they know everything about IT.

There’s only one way to escape from the left-hand side of Dunning-Kruger diagram: stop being an expert beginner and figure out how stuff you’re working with really works. Hint: Google-and-Paste is typically not a good approach.

To make matters worse, vendors actively encourage everyone (and their boss) to stay on the left-hand side of the diagram by selling ever-more-convoluted solutions with a façade that makes complex things seem easy and manageable, whereas in reality the right way to go would be to simplify everything as much as possible.

Guess what: nobody is interested in doing that, because it doesn’t increase vendor revenues or reduce end-users’ head count. Welcome to the wonderful new world, and try not to think about what’s going to happen when it comes crashing down. We’ve seen some pretty bad outages recently, and it will only get worse.


  1. Why are you so pessimistic in your last sentence? On which facts is your prediction based on? I think I have to take the blue pills instead of the red ones.
  2. There is definitely some humour in this paper. I like the concluding remarks.

    A former CIO I reported to always said "some resources don't know what they don't know". I'm not sure if she knew about the Dunning-Kruger Efect or not, but that's exactly what she was describing.

    I've found the following article enjoyable to read and have visited it more than once over the past couple of years. http://thefederalist.com/2014/01/17/the-death-of-expertise/
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